Investigation into referendum campaign leads to sanctions

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Brock University Students’ Union referendums have been in full swing, but a recent development has changed the momentum of this season’s elections.

An infraction notice was made public this past Friday on the BUSU website. Following an investigation, Chief Returning Officer James Hall found the “Yes” side of the student engagement levy referendum in violation of bylaws. The “Yes” campaign is run by BUSU and headed by BUSU President Aidan Hibma.

The infractions included failure to seek approval to use campaign material on the BUSU website and Facebook page, as well as in emails sent out to BUSU clubs. Hall also determined the “Yes” side did not obtain approval to speak to student clubs and lectures about their campaign.

Ultimately, these infractions were not found to have seriously impacted the referendum and as such two small-scale sanctions were implemented to remedy the situation.

The Elections team penalized the “Yes” side by prompting the campaign to cease campaigning at 2:00 p.m. Friday until 11:30 a.m. Monday.

However, it seems a post was made on BUSU’s Twitter account Saturday promoting the campaign. It was deleted shortly after.

Other remedies to maintain balance in the referendum period included requests for increased access to resources for the “No” side of the campaign. These requests were for the “No” side to have access to the email list used to send out any un-approved emails and a list of clubs that the “Yes” side presented to. Additionally, the Elections team supported the request by the “No” side for the use of a television at their campaign booths. Hall requested that BrockTV film a promotional video for the “No” side similar to what they provided for the “Yes” campaign.

The video filmed for the “Yes” side was a 58 second video featuring BUSU members speaking directly to the camera while wearing BUSU shirts. The video was posted on BUSU’s social media Thursday.

The determination of infraction and decisions made regarding penalties stemmed from examination of BUSU Bylaw 400 which outlines referendums. Hall is responsible for the interpretation of this bylaw through his capacity as Chief Returning Officer.

“The issue of the ‘Yes’ side utilizing material from BUSU does, in our opinion, provide them with an unfair advantage over their competitors; however, this has been the precedent set in past referendums campaigns, and the Elections team does not feel that we can change that precedence in the middle of a campaign period,” said Hall in the investigation summary.

Historically, BUSU utilizes their social media to support referendums they have been approved to run. As well as this precedent, there is also no bylaw requiring BUSU to provide the opposing side access to its organizational material.

“It is, however, the recommendation of this investigation to charge the Governance Elections and Nominations Committee to revisit the potential biasness that can arise from these referendums and make the necessary changes to create a higher level of equality in the future. The Elections team will work arduously with the necessary committees to make sure that Bylaw 400 is updated to reflect these necessary changes, and to make the referendum and elections process more equitable in the future,” said Hall.

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